Pretzels' new twist adds crunch to a bunch of dishes

HAPPY EATER

September 09, 1992|By ROB KASPER

I had a vague notion that I was living in the land of serious pretzel eaters. I knew, that a few miles north of here, Pennsylvania people buy pretzels daily, the way the French buy bread.

And I knew that in Philadelphia folks treat hot pretzels as if they were hot dogs, and squirt mustard on them.

But then two things raised my pretzel awareness. First, I got my hand on the nation's pretzel-eating statistics. Secondly, I put my fork in a pretzel pie.

The chambers of commerce don't mention this, but this area leads the nation in pretzel eating. It is not even a contest. We leave other pretzel eaters in our salt. The average eater in the Mid-Atlantic region put down 3.43 pounds of pretzels in 1991. Second place went to eaters in the East Central section of United States who consumed a mere 2.3 pounds per person.

Next came New England pretzel eaters at 1.65 pounds, then West Central pretzel eaters at a 1.54 pounds per person, then Southeastern snackers at 1.09 pounds per person, then Pacific pretzel eaters at a measly .85 of pound per person, and finally the Southwestern pretzel eaters were in the cellar, with a mere .72 pounds of pretzels per person.

These figures came from the 1992 Snack Food State of the

Industry Report, put out by the Snack Food Association in Alexandria, Va. The snack report said, in so many words, that the rest of America is trying to catch up to our pretzel-eating pace. Nationally there was a 25 percent increase in pretzel sales in 1991. Among the factors figuring in the increased popularity of pretzels were their negligible fat content, their low price compared to the average snack ($1.84 per pound vs. $2.73) and the entry into the pretzel market of Frito Lay, an outfit that is spending a lot of money promoting its Rold Gold brand of pretzels.

Nothing I read specifically mentioned that pretzel eaters in other parts of country were trying to mimic the mid-Atlantic lifestyle. But that could change when the rest of the country meets pretzel pie.

I tasted my first pretzel pie the other day. It was surprisingly good, even though it tasted more of nuts and whipped cream than pretzels.

The pie was made by Sherry Jordan, a Baltimore caterer. She put pretzels in the pie, and in a lot of other unusual places, when she tested the recipes for a new 16-page booklet called "Cookin' With Pretzenality." Her husband, Gary, of the Baltimore advertising firm of Azzam Jordan, put the booklet together for Snyder's of Hanover, Pa., a pretzel baker.

The booklet (available Sept. 16, free from Snyder's of Hanover, P.O. Box 917, Hanover, Pa. 17331.) advocates using pretzels as turkey stuffing, as croutons in salad, as the crust for quiche, and as a topping for a squash casserole and in a Jell-O parfait.

The Jordans and their two children served as test eaters for these dishes. In a phone interview, Ms. Jordan reported that their 13-year-old daughter Brooke, and their 10-year-old son, Ryan, liked most of the exotic pretzel dishes. But she said they were so suspicious of vegetables that they wouldn't go near the squash casserole topped with pretzels, even if Mom made it for Dad's client.

As for the pretzel pie, she said that while it may look like a dish for people desperate to work pretzels into every facet of their lives, it ended up being her favorite pretzel recipe.

Pretzel pie Serves 6.

1 cup sugar (reserve 3 tablespoons for whipped cream topping)

5 hard sourdough pretzels, crushed

1 cup finely chopped pecans

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

semi-sweet chocolate

Combine half the sugar, pretzel crumbs and chopped pecans. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites, until frothy, add remaining half of sugar and continue beating until stiff.

Fold pretzel mixture into meringue and add vanilla. Push mixture into well-greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes until lightly browned. Whip chilled cream with reserved 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until stiff. Spread whipped cream over cooled pie. Grate chocolate over whipped cream.

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